How Polyamory Works

Benefits of Polyamory

If you can overcome the jealousy, polyamory can have many benefits.
If you can overcome the jealousy, polyamory can have many benefits.

People who practice polyamory probably don't think monogamy is a realistic practice; it's inevitable, they might argue, that we'll have the urge to pursue or sleep with someone who is not our spouse or life partner. By recognizing this factor, and working around it, they've found a way to keep important relationships intact. Rather than enduring a devastating break-up over a dalliance, you can keep the person that you love in your life, even if he or she seeks to fulfill needs that you can't. In polyamorous lingo, there's even a word for feeling joy over the fact that your significant other has found happiness with another person: compersion.

Because your dating options aren't limited by saying "I do" or making a commitment to another person, polyamorous people often cite freedom of choice as a main motivator for polyamory [sources: Doheny, Newitz]. There is less pressure to find that perfect person that you can grow old with; rather, polyamory allows a person to seek out an entire network of people that meet his or her emotional and physical needs, which allows for lots of different kinds of intimacy and support. On the most practical level, that might mean being able to avoid watching an afternoon of football or ballet if a partner has another partner who enjoys that activity. Having such a wide array of relationship experiences might mean that you don't become bored or complacent in any of the relationships, and it might allow you to get to know yourself better.

One study indicates that this kind of freedom and choice can strengthen relationships, not hurt them. According to an analysis published in the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality in 2005, polyamorous couples who had been together for more than 10 years said "love" and the "connection" were the most important factors in their longevity. Monogamous couples, on the other hand, often cite religion or family as the most important reasons for a long-term commitment [source: Newitz].

And when it comes to polyamorous people who raise children, having several partners means help with parental duties like driving to soccer practice and figuring out homework. Though no research has been completed on the long-term effects of growing up with polyamorous parents, early findings from a study at Georgia State University indicates that kids surrounded by multiple adults benefit from the wealth of resources that a polyamorous relationship can provide [source: Miller]. Still, kids are often the reason that many people stay quiet about polyamory; we'll explore some drawbacks of polyamory on the next page.